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Weather and hydrographic conditions associated with coral bleaching: Lee Stocking Island, Bahamas

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Thermograph, current-meter, and coastal-weather data from Lee Stocking Island, Exuma Cays, Bahamas, are used to investigate hydrographic and meteorological conditions preceding and during a bleaching event in August 1990. Shelf water temperatures recorded at three locations rise to just over 30 °C. Weather data provide estimates of local heating and cooling by insolation, net outgoing long-wave radiation, and sensible and latent heat fluxes. Weather data do not indicate a period of unusually clear skies during the days and weeks preceding the bleaching event. Rather, calculations suggest that low wind speeds during late July and early August reduced evaporative cooling. A tidal channel near the bleaching site provided a source of hyperpycnal 31 °C water that had been heated in the shallow waters of Great Bahama Bank. Current-meter data suggest an along-shelf transport of water from the mouth of the tidal channel to the bleaching site. A comparison of wind-stress and water-temperature data suggests that a downwelling pattern contributed to heating at the reef by flooding the shelf with warm surface water. Results suggest that heating at the reef was a combination of local warming, enhanced by reduced evaporation, and advective warming resulting from both an along-shelf transport of bank water and a landward across-shelf transport of warm surface water.

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Correspondence to Ned P. Smith.

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Smith, N.P. Weather and hydrographic conditions associated with coral bleaching: Lee Stocking Island, Bahamas. Coral Reefs 20, 415–422 (2001).

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